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24 May 2021

Helping the expert teachers too - we look at the NCCE's CSA programme

Are you one of the thousands of teachers who have taken part in the Computer Science Accelerator programme?

Thousands of teachers have now completed the NCCE’s programme, which develops the skills and confidence to teach computing science up to GCSE. 

Funded by the Department for Education, the Computer Science Accelerator (CSA) is a professional development programme for teachers.  On completion of the programme, teachers receive a certificate in computer science subject knowledge (awarded by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and accredited by the Royal Academy of Engineering).

It’s a programme which has evolved since its launch in 2019, explained Steve Clarke, Computer Science Accelerator Programme Manager at the National Centre for Computing Education.


The CSA is designed to be valuable to teachers with a computing background, such as CAS Master Teachers, as well as new-comers to the subject

Steve Clarke, Computer Science Accelerator Programme Manager at the National Centre for Computing Education.

“Perhaps you’re a teacher who looked at Computer Science Accelerator (CSA) in the early days and decided the courses weren’t right for you, or maybe the time commitment was too long to justify when your subject knowledge was already strong - or perhaps you weren’t eligible for the programme at that time due to your academic qualifications in CS,” said Steve.  

“But much has changed since 2019 when the programme was launched. The CSA has grown and evolved in response to feedback. Participants can now take the test after only 10 hours of CPD.  The programme’s CPD offer has broadened considerably since its inception.” 

There are now a number of online and remote/face-to-face courses aimed at more confident CS teachers and an advanced pathway is available which provides a suggested route through the programme including remote courses which includes courses such as Higher attainment in computer science: meeting the challenges of the exams, and online courses such as Programming with GUIs and Design and prototype embedded computer systems. 

“Bursaries are payable to schools up to £1,800 per participant of which £300 of this is ringfenced for you to use for classroom resources or to support your continued development,” said Steve.

“It is our ambition that all teachers of computing -  regardless of background -  will aspire to gain the subject knowledge certificate. We believe the subject knowledge certificate gives senior leaders confidence when making new appointments, but most importantly it provides a form of recognition for teachers of computing.”

Find out more about the CSA here.

John Feleppa is a CAS Master Teacher and a community leader, who also leads computing at Harrow High School, a secondary school in north west London 

“I completed the CSA in 2019, before the pandemic, so I attended face-to-face courses on Networks and on Python.  Since then, I have facilitated several CSA courses myself, and recommend this CPD for anyone looking to become more secure in their GCSE CS knowledge.

Why did you take the Computer Science Accelerator programme?

“I took the CSA programme from a pedagogical perspective, because although my CS knowledge is secure, I enjoy revisiting the content as delivered by other expert teachers.  We all see the subject through our own gaze, and we have much to learn from each other. This is particularly the case with programming, where there were moments that the facilitator coded things in ways that made me say 'Aha'.  In addition, the CSA resources are well put together, and I have used several sequences in my own teaching.”


How did you find the CSA programme? 

“The facilitators deliver the courses with confidence, but I particularly liked the spirit to refine the resources so that each time the course is delivered, it is better. This spirit of evolution is pretty impressive, and has led to some really polished resources.”

How has your teaching practice, your school and students benefited?

“My teaching of Python is better now, because the resources highlight common misconceptions that students meet.  As a teacher, I do not see all these misconceptions, just the ones that I notice.  But there are lots out there, and the CPD teaches through these, so that students learn Python the right way (rather than just getting a program to work, as some teaching of Python is guilty of).  

Would you recommend it to other Master Teachers?

“For an audience of Master Teachers, this CPD is worth doing because of its research-based unpicking of misconceptions.  If a teacher knows Python, they still will not have noticed some of the things that hold students back, but may do so from the CPD, as it explicitly focuses on these.”

Martin Sexton teaches at Mildenhall College Academy in Suffolk. He completed his CSA qualification in July 2020. He has a Computer Science degree and is currently Faculty Lead for Business, Health and Computing at the academy. He completed the CAS Master Teacher programme in 2018 and leads a CAS community in Mildenhall. 

Why did you take the Computer Science Accelerator programme?

“It was an opportunity to develop some of my weaker areas. Even with a CS degree, I felt there were some areas where I could improve my understanding, and the range of courses run by the NCCE allowed for me to do this. Secondly, the courses allowed me to develop my pedagogical approach to teaching some of my stronger areas. The CSA programme also offered me recognition of my continued PD in the subject. The mix of face-to-face and online courses helped with this. The funding was also a major incentive as it enabled me to put plans in place to purchase equipment we wouldn't necessarily have bought without the money. I have invested it in some computers to lend to KS4 CS students. “

How did you find the programme?

The flexibility of the course was a big draw to continue and being able to assess my weaknesses gave me an idea of the courses to focus on. The courses are generally of a high standard and always have lots of great ideas to take forward. Attending face to face/remote courses run by other facilitators also allowed me to adapt how I deliver the courses myself. The test at the end was very straightforward and allowed me to prove that I have the knowledge required to teach CS. 

How has it benefited your teaching practice? And how do you think your school and students have benefited?

Lots of new ideas to teach the topics I have been teaching for the last nine years! There are now new activities that I use and more videos which give students extra revision materials. I also discuss the ideas and provide the resources to other teachers in our academy and throughout our trust. 

I would definitely recommend the CSA programme to other Master Teachers. The courses give new ways to teach each topic covered and the fact that new courses are being added frequently also means that there is a huge variety of courses to complete.

Martin Sexton